Sibling Rivalry – Revisited


By: Steven B. Rosenstein

Who imagines that Sibling Rivalry is a normal and natural activity that is neither bad nor all that different from all other human relationships?

What is sibling rivalry?

It's actually bullying between siblings with one or all parties seeking to win over on the other. Too often viewed as a problem by the psychiatric community, it's by no means abnormal or uncommon in all predator species as compared to sheep in the field. However, when heartless individuals, cultures, or countries engage in bullying, it most certainly has quite deleterious consequences.

Why do kids bully one another

Bullying is part of human nature and a normal activity of growing up. Mastery of their world is learned through competing against each other. Kids enjoy competing and winning against other kids because adults are too big and skilled to beat. Naturally, bullying should be in a playful manner, without meanness, and as a learning experience in the process of socialization. When siblings bully one another they haven't lost their love and affection and when they go too far, they'll usually apologize and feel guilty.

Bullying is bullying!

As you've noticed kids practically bully everyone if they can. You know they love to bully you. The young try to bully older siblings. Older siblings bully the younger ones. Boys bully girls. And girls certainly bully boys. Get me that toy in the store! Josh won't let me play on the computer. Tell him to give me a turn! Bullying between siblings tends to be viewed as a problem by parents when it gets out of hand or becomes incessantly annoying. No concerned parent is going to ignore boisterous struggles, constant tattling, or one screaming for help.

Physical Aggression or Meanness is not permissible.

Bullying should only be verbal. Physical aggression or real meanness between siblings is a sign of displaced angry feelings. Children take out their anger and disappointments on those that they can win over. If you see that you need to think about why your child is so angry, and as quickly as possible, soothe those feelings. This is the list of what kids generally want from parents and if they don't get it you'll see an increase in bullying: moral and ethical behavior, love, compassion, support, and guidance, the feeling of being important, the freedom to express their wishes and concerns, and non-critical and judgmental attitudes when they make mistakes or don't achieve parental expectations.

How to deal with sibling bullying.

Physical aggression is never the solution. Since bullying is normal in the human species, when dealing with excessive bullying between siblings, it needs to be curtailed with firmness. Although the child being victimized appears to get your sympathy that child needs to learn an effective defense, which you can teach. A big job of both parents is helping their children live in a civilized society and get along well with others.

Effective approaches to reduce sibling rivalry.

Never lecture them on not being a bully, heap on punishments, or use physical punishment as it reinforces adult bullying. It's better for children to know about their bully natures and learn to control their actions as it has consequences. Their siblings won't like them. Telling them to stop, perhaps separating them, and encouraging them to be busy at their own endeavors is usually enough. If necessary a good loud bark by parents that reflects your serious desire for this to end the contentiousness should do it. Kids need to know parents are the good bullies when it helps them to grow up.

Taming Your Inner & Outer Bullies: Confronting Life's Stressors and Winning (New Horizon Press 2006) by Steven B. Rosenstein, LCSW, MS, is a personal improvement book that offers the readers his unique wisdom about human nature and relationships so they improve their lives for the better. The readers will not only have an invaluable guide that offers meaningful knowledge, foresight, and inspiration on how to deal with Inner and Outer Bullies, but he provides practical help in achieving success. There is help for those that want to like themselves better, stop self-defeating actions, feel more confident in all their endeavors, and avoid victimizations from relationships as well as societal institutions. His book is not just intended for those readers with oppressively unhappy lives; it is relevant and essential for all people, young and old, who are not achieving their most precious desires, hopes, and dreams.

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